United vs United. Expansion vs Expansion. The epic clash has finally arrived. This weekend Atlanta United will travel up north to face off against fellow 2017 MLS expansion side Minnesota United. The nationally televised matchup is set to kick off at 5:00 p.m. ET. on Sunday, March 12 and will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Atlanta enters the match after opening at home in Week 1 against New York Red Bulls in front of a 55,297-sellout crowd, in which ATL UTD suffered a 2-1 come-from-behind defeat. In contrast, Minnesota kicked off their MLS campaign by journeying to the West Coast to play Portland Timbers, but alas, endured the same fate as Atlanta, dropping all three points in a 5-1 loss. Although not the desired results, last week’s outcomes shape this match into an even more historic meeting as both sides will be searching for their first ever points in MLS history.
Tata Martino’s team could argue that it deserved at least a point in its inaugural match against the Red Bulls of New York. When halftime arrived, Atlanta United found themselves with a one-goal advantage after Yamil Asad smashed home a Tyrone Mears cross for the club’s first-ever MLS goal, one that Atlanta will not soon forget. The southern expansion side continued to play the 2016 Regular Season Eastern Conference Champions very tightly, but failed to capitalize on a few golden opportunities, leaving RBNY in the game and time to score two before the final whistle.
A similar starting XI for ATL UTD is to be expected from the visitors this Sunday with the exception of Carlos Carmona who was dismissed late in the last match with a red card. We will most likely see his spot in the center filled by Jeff Larentowicz or Chris McCann. Other projected starters: Alec Kann (GK), Greg Garza (LB), Leandro González Pirez (CB), Michael Parkhurst (CB), Tyrone Mears (RB), Julian Gressel (CM), Miguel Almirón (CAM), Yami Asad (LW), Tito Villalba (RW) and Josef Martinez (ST).
Minnesota’s MLS team is primarily comprised of newly signed players, including long-time Orlando City playmaker Kevin Molino, and a pair of Costa Rican Internationals, Francisco Calvo and Johan Venegas. However, they’ve also rolled over a few players from their NASL days, among them Miguel Ibarra and Christian Ramirez, who have a record of 68 goals combined for the Loons.
They may not have any Designated Players, but with an experienced coach in Adrian Heath and a team with a lot of heart, they’re not a side to be taken lightly, and the 5-1 score line from last week doesn’t convey the whole story. MNUFC had spurts of possession and some nice linking play through the midfield, even cutting it to a one-goal deficit with just about 10 minutes left in the match. The Loons will look to avenge their late concessions in Portland in front of a home crowd that’s been longing for this moment since 2015, when they were awarded an MLS franchise.
Sunday’s matchup will be a memorable one to say the least: the first meeting between the two clubs, Minnesota’s inaugural league home opener, and both teams’ first-ever MLS points are at stake. You can purchase tickets to the match here or you can catch it live on national television on ESPN2. In Atlanta, 92.9 The Game and La Mejor Atlanta will also be covering the match over radio broadcasts.